Voice Un/fold/ed; injury and wellbeing in Singing

Event Date 21 Jan 2022 (Fri), 06:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Venue Zoom
Organiser NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE) (Email : )

Event Info


Much has been said and encouraged, of and about the power of music but much less about the power/less/ness of the health and well-being of musicians in their pursuits, notably issues of injury. What seems to have escaped notice has been the way/s in which all learners of instruments, including the voice, have not been aware of – or even been made aware of – debilitating injury caused in the formative processes of that learning in and through a variety of functions, some essential, some everyday.

Injury, and even death, among instrumentalists was recorded and observed, vis-à-vis Bernardino Ramazzini’s monograph De Morbis Artificium Diatriba (Diseases of Workers 1700/1713):

In the same class of the infirm are flutists and those who play the pipes; all in short who play wind instruments with cheeks puffed out; for from violent exertion of breath necessary for blowing trumpets and flutes, they incur not only the maladies above-mentioned but far more serious ones, e.g., ruptures of the vessels of the chest and sudden discharges of blood from the mouth. In his Observations, Diemerbroecke gives a pitiable case of a flutist who, when certain others were playing the trumpet, was so ambitious to play louder than they that he ruptured a large vein in the lung, had a violent hemorrage, and died within two hours.” (Ramazzini, in Lederman 2020, p.4).

Research by Middlestadt, S. E., & Fishbein, M. (1988) precipitated responses from 2,212 players from 47 American orchestras. 76% reported musculoskeletal problems, affecting the shoulder (20%), neck (22%), and back (16%), acute anxiety (13%), depression (17%), and sleep disturbances (14%). In short, these were conditions that potentially impaired performance. More recent research has indicated musicians experiencing hearing loss (O’Brien, 2014), visual problems (Beckers, 2016), and eating disorders (Kapsetaki and Easmon 2017). There has also emerged – among musicians compared with the general population – a higher prevalence of insomnia and psychological distress and a reliance on psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs (sedatives, antidepressants, hypnotics and/or medication for ADHD (Vaag,, 2016a, b, c).

That these issues are in the field of occupational and rehabilitative medicine is curious, given that the most sensible preventive and pre-emptive strategies ought to begin with the early learning processes and prehabilitative care. Should these issues have been dealt with at the initial point of instrumental learning? Who should be responsible? What systems are there in place to support instrumental learners; in educating them to be more aware of the use of their bodies to prevent or manage injury which affects not only physiological but also psychological well-being?

This session focuses on the Voice and seeks to initiate a conversation on causes of such injury as well as cautionary approaches and advice to and for early learners to the singing voice.


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